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Heavy gusts over proposed Fairhaven wind turbines

FAIRHAVEN – Fairhaven officials are confident two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines planned for town property near the wastewater treatment plant will go up beginning in January. But opponents are just as confident their fight will continue even after the turbines are built.

Critical of both the project and the process, opponents say they were given no notice of construction activity on the turbine project, which they considered dead after a successful 2009 legal battle.

But selectmen insist they took all required permitting steps and moved forward with Town Meeting’s approval, referring to a 2006 vote in favor of the turbines.

The reason the town is able to move forward without a special permit, when it couldn’t in 2006, is due to regulatory changes at the state and federal levels designed to support alternative energy projects, according to Fairhaven executive secretary Jeffrey Osuch.

“There have been a series of issues and items that have changed in five years, and the biggest one – impacting financing and returns – is the net metering law that passed,” he said.

Osuch noted that the two turbines, which have already been ordered, are the same height as the ones proposed in 2006.

“I talked to the owner of the turbines, Gordon Deane, myself; they are 80 meters (260 feet),” he said, referring to a project investor.

Information circulating through town that the Federal Aviation Administration had approved 463-foot turbines is likely referring to the overall clearance for the town, according to Selectman Brian Bowcock, who echoed Osuch’s comment.

“I believe the ones that Gordon has purchased are the 80 meter towers,” he said.

Kenneth Pottel, a member of Windwise, a group of about 30 residents opposed to the turbines, expressed his frustration about the lack of notice to neighbors.

“If they can legally go about it this way, it’s very disturbing,” he said.

If the turbines go up, Pottel added: “This won’t be over. “I can tell you that for every single person in our group.”

Pottel said he believes more people are becoming aware of potential negative health impacts of turbines than in 2006, when the town gave its approval.

“A lot of people are emailing us and calling that we’ve never had involved before,” he said. “We’re going to get a lot more involved because I think people are a lot more educated about health effects.”

Ann DeNardis, attorney for neighbors, said it was premature to talk about legal steps being taken but that she is investigating. “We will be proceeding,” she said.